Orlando 'Panorama' photo exhibit captures community spirit

Percy Riva found his camera near the Orlando Public Library. Kelsey Godfrey spotted hers while shopping along Park Avenue in Winter Park. Others were in places such as the downtown Lynx bus station and Downtown Credo coffee shop in College Park.

All were part of Elizabeth Kruckemyer's master plan to inspire Central Florida residents to see their community in a different light. To that end, the Orlando graphic designer scattered 10 disposable cameras in public places, leaving instructions for finders to photograph local life.

About 100 of those images, taken during a single week in January, will be displayed Friday. Called "Panorama," the exhibit will hang for one night only at downtown Orlando's Urban ReThink, a cultural hot spot in the Thornton Park district.

The photos have artistic merit, Kruckemyer said. But just as important is the community spirit created by the project, the latest in a series of independent arts initiatives focused on Central Florida.

"When you're around art, it becomes common ground," said artist Donna Dowless, chairwoman of the Downtown Orlando Arts District. "It becomes a neutral space where people of all age groups and races and professions can come together and have a discussion and feel emotion."

In the past year, Orlando has seen several "pop-up" art shows that feature temporary exhibits in surprising places. In October, the Creative City Project brought free daily arts events to the streets of downtown Orlando.

Currently under way is "Identity Orlando," in which about 100 artists are creating works on canvas squares that will be stitched together and likely displayed at Orlando's City Hall later this year.

"It's been cool to see projects like these spring up," said writer-actor Cole NeSmith, who presented the Creative City Project and plans to revive it later this year. "If we're going to be known as a city of the arts, artists have to stop waiting. They have to start creating."

In the case of Kruckemyer's "Panorama" project, ordinary people became the artists.

Riva, 35, found his camera while walking home from a farmers market. A photography buff, the native of Peru took pictures of downtown landmarks: the 55 West building, Lake Eola, "anything that would catch my eye," he said.

Godfrey, 22, focused more on people, such as cafe patrons and street musicians.

"I took everyday scenes of people eating and hanging out," said Godfrey, of Winter Springs.

Riva has lived downtown three years, and Godfrey has lived in Central Florida four years. Both said the project strengthened their bonds with their neighborhoods.

"I've found out a lot about Orlando I didn't know before," Godfrey said.

That pleases Kruckemyer.

"I thought it would be a really interesting way to see how people in our community experience it," said Kruckemyer, who got the idea for "Panorama" during a quintessential local activity: commuting. "I hoped they would photograph their lives, their communities, anything they wanted to share."

In Friday's exhibition, some photos will be displayed as prints, and all will be digitally projected. None will be sold.

Kruckemyer, who hopes to repeat the project, said the time is right for a community project such as "Panorama": Public sculptures are being installed this fall in downtown Orlando, and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts will open in 2014.

"There's a real momentum in building arts and culture in Orlando," she said. "It's an exciting time to be part of this."

mpalm@tribune.com or 407-420-5038

'Panorama'

What: An exhibit of the community-photography project

When: 8-10 p.m. Friday, March 29

Where: Urban ReThink, 625 E. Central Blvd., Orlando

Admission: Free

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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